All 7 Tom Cruise Cameo Roles, Ranked Worst To Best

Tom Cruise has appeared in many iconic roles, but he’s also made cameos in several unexpected films that audiences might have forgotten.

Tom Cruise has delivered many of the most memorable leading roles in modern film history, but he’s also made cameo appearances in some unexpected movies. Cruise’s career spans over four decades and covers practically every genre imaginable. His filmography includes no shortage of iconic movies, and as a result, he’s maintained his status as a bankable star since the 1980s.

Cruise has delivered heart-pounding action in the beloved Top Gun and Mission: Impossible franchises, but he’s also been praised for his dramatic turns in films like Magnolia and Born on the Fourth of July, both of which earned him Academy Award nominations. As such, Cruise is mainly thought of as a dramatic and action-based actor, especially in recent years. However, his earlier filmography proves that he’s just as comfortable in comedic roles, such as Risky Business.

Although Cruise has done a lot of work as a leading man, he isn’t afraid to take on unexpected cameos, some of which make him look virtually unrecognizable. Beyond cameos, Cruise has appeared in minor roles in several projects, especially early in his career, proving that he can make a huge impact even with a minimal amount of screen time. Many of Cruise’s cameos and minor roles have allowed him to show off his talent beyond his typical leading man status. These cameos and smaller roles also prove that Cruise is a box office draw, even when he’s barely in the movie.

7Young Guns (1988)

As Henchman Shot off of Roof (Uncredited)

EEmilio Estevez in Young Guns pointing his gun

Cruise is not given very much to do in Young Guns, which focuses on the life of Billy the Kid. He only appears in a brief, uncredited role as Henchman Shot off of Roof. Cruise is difficult to even recognize in the film, as he’s only seen from a distance and is wearing a fake mustache. Interestingly, Cruise only appeared in the movie because he was visiting friends on set, and the director, Christopher Cain, decided to include him in a shot of the climactic final battle.

Although the Young Guns role is unremarkable, it does show Cruise’s early interest in stunt work. Today, Cruise is notorious for performing his own stunts, especially ones that are challenging and dangerous. It’s become a hallmark of his career, helping him stand apart from actors of the same age and giving audiences an incentive to check out his films in theaters. Cruise’s willingness to topple off a roof for an uncredited role proves that he has always been game for any part, no matter how physically demanding.

6Endless Love (1981)

As BillyBrooke Shields as Jade looking serious in Endless Love

Cruise’s very first on-screen role came in 1981’s Endless Love, a romantic drama starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt. Cruise only appears briefly as Billy, a friend of Hewitt’s character who recounts how he once set his crush’s house on fire. Cruise, who was 19 at the time, seems like a completely different person from the movie star that audiences would grow to love just a few years later. His voice is notably higher, and he spends most of the scene dressed in only a pair of jean shorts.

The Endless Love scene itself is fairly unmemorable, but it does mark the beginning of Cruise’s life as an actor, making it fun to revisit now. The role also kickstarted one of the most iconic trends in Cruise’s career. When Billy is introduced, he’s running during a soccer game before taking a break to chat with Hewitt’s character. Running became one of Cruise’s signature moves as a movie star, thanks to his distinct approach. It’s interesting to see this development foreshadowed in his very first role.

5Rock of Ages (2012)

As Stacee JaxxTom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages

The jukebox musical Rock of Ages is generally considered to be a misstep in Cruise’s career, though his part is small enough that it didn’t negatively impact his future success. The movie was a box office bomb and was panned by critics, currently holding a rating of only 42% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, Cruise at least commits to the role of flamboyant rock star Stacee Jaxx. He channels real-life rock inspirations Axl Rose and Keith Richards, decked out in tattoos and heavy eyeliner that effectively make him disappear into the character.

Cruise even performed all of his own vocals for the film, singing the classic rock hits “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Wanted Dead Or Alive.” Despite the film’s overall lack of quality, it’s obvious that Cruise enjoyed playing against his usual heroic type, and audiences got a kick out of seeing him show off a different side as well. His performance is so fun to watch that it almost makes up for how difficult the rest of the movie is to sit through.

4The Outsiders (1983)

As Steve RandleSteve (Tom Cruise) leans against a wall in The Outsiders

In 1983, the same year Cruise starred in his career-defining film Risky Business, he also made an appearance in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of The Outsiders. The star-studded cast of The Outsiders featured several up-and-coming young actors, and, in hindsight, provides a fascinating preview of where Hollywood would go in the next few decades. Cruise was cast as Steve Randle, the best friend of Rob Lowe’s Sodapop Curtis, and more than held his own even in this minor role.

Cruise is charming and funny, bringing occasional moments of levity to a movie full of extremely serious topics, and it’s no wonder that this performance helped jumpstart his career as an actor. However, Cruise’s role is very minor, and the character ends up getting lost among all the other standout performances from actors like Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, and Ralph Macchio. Additionally, although Cruise always commits to his characters, his attempt at Randle’s Southern drawl is pretty unconvincing. While this misstep can be forgiven as Cruise was still quite early in his career, it does his performance no favors.

3Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

As Tom Cruise (As Austin Powers)Tom Cruise as Austin Powers in Austin Powers Goldmember

The third installment of the Austin Powers trilogy opens with a self-parody of the franchise where it’s revealed that Cruise (as himself) is playing Austin alongside several other high-profile stars, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny DeVito, and John Travolta. The film-within-a-film also ends up being a spoof of the Mission: Impossible movies, parodying their high-tech gadgets and absurd stunts. This meta casting is a perfect encapsulation of where Cruise’s career was at the time.

In the early 2000s, Cruise was on a run of critical and commercial hits which elevated him to becoming one of the biggest movie stars around. It makes sense that, in the world of Austin Powers, he would be the top choice to play the larger-than-life spy. Although Cruise’s role in the film is contained to just the one scene, it’s still an incredible performance. His straight-to-camera delivery of Powers’ catchphrase “yeah, baby” is one of the movie’s funniest moments. Similar to Cruise’s role in Rock of Ages, his Austin Powers cameo also showed the actor’s willingness to poke fun at himself.

2Taps (1981)

As Cadet Captain David ShawnTom Cruise in Taps wearing uniform with other soldiers

Taps is only Cruise’s second film role. However, even with a lack of experience, Cruise manages to make a huge impact on screen. According to director Harold Becker, Cruise was originally meant to appear as a background character, but his performance was so engaging that they offered him an expanded role. Cruise appears in the film as Cadet Captain David Shawn, a high-ranking but hotheaded student at the Bunker Hill Military Academy who winds up having a big impact.

Following the tragic events of the film, Shawn opens fire on the forces coming to shut down the school, deciding to go out in a blaze of glory rather than surrender to them. His final words, “It’s beautiful, man,” as he fires his machine gun became the film’s most iconic quote, showing Cruise’s ability to make a meal out of even a small part. His performance is incredibly powerful, especially for someone still in the early stages of his career. Looking back, the Taps role marks the beginning of Cruise’s rise to movie stardom and hints at even brighter things to come.

1Tropic Thunder (2008)

As Les GrossmanTom Cruise on the phone in Tropic Thunder

Cruise is almost unrecognizable as Tropic Thunder’s Les Grossman, the hilarious but morally bankrupt studio head behind the titular film. The character was intended as a parody of many of the abusive executives that the cast and crew had worked with during their careers, and Cruise intentionally made Grossman’s appearance as grotesque as possible. His receding hairline, comically hairy chest, and oversized prosthetic hands were all decided on by Cruise to bring the ridiculous character to life.

Although Cruise’s role in the film is brief, his scene shouting nonsensical profane insults at the Flaming Dragon gang over the phone is one of the most memorable parts of the movie. The follow-up scene where he persuades Matthew McConaughey’s character Rick to abandon his best friend to the gang memorably occurs as Grossman dances to Flo Rida’s “Low.” Like Cruise’s work in Rock of Ages and Austin Powers in Goldmember, it’s a great example of the actor not taking himself too seriously. It’s also one of the most absurd moments in Tom Cruise’s career and deserves props for its sheer audacity and confidence.

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